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Prussia, at that time, and I find that he congratulated him on his successes, (2d May, 1758.) In August 1759, he writes “ your verses are charming, and if your majesty has beaten your enemies, they are still better.” It is true, that in 1760, he no longer congratulates him, he writes to him rarely, and his letters are almost always to obtain reparation for the rather light treatment which Madame Denis had received by his orders at Frankfort. The king laughs at the captious philosopher, or haughtily keeps him at a distance. It was no doubt for this that Voltaire wished Luc to be beaten. It was not patriotism, but resentment, and a little revenge, that inspired him. That this was the case, is not mere conjecture; at least it is confirmed by a letter in the Supplement, in which Voltaire says with bitterness to the Marquis of
Thibouville,“ my niece thought that fifty thousand Frenchmen could avenge her for the four bayonets of Frankfort, but she was mistaken.” And are these the letters which are to be opposed, as a monument of generous sentiments to all the “scrupulous people of this stamp,” as Mr. G. nobly calls them. And what would be the case, if on searching through the twenty or thirty volumes of his correspondence, I were to discover through this seductive varnish of grace, wit, and gayety, all the proofs of injustice, hypocrisy, low flattery, implacable hatred, and barbarous hopes, which disgrace them. But what most characterizes them, is that dishonesty which makes him diguise his sentiments, betray truths, that are notorious, and calumniate virtue, against his own conviction. This is the character of the greater part of his works. I have already had occasion to remark one trait of this, in speaking of the life of Fenelon, and the reflections of Mr. Esmenard, induce me to return to the subject. Let us first relate the fact. Voltaire, to the great glory of Fenelon, wished to make him pass for a hypocrite, who publicly professed principles, which in his heart he detested. In supr port of this opinion he cites a very ridiculous couplet, which he attributes to Fenelon, and a letter written to him by Ramsay, in which, speaking of the Archbishop of Cambray, he says, “ if he had been born in England, he would have developed his genius, and given a spring to his principles which had never been well known.” Some writer denied the authenticity of this letter. Voltaire answers him by abuse, pretends that he can only say, that he has the letter; and to prove it, cites in English the letter he had already given in French. I confess I did not find this proof very convincing. However, Mr. Esmenard thinks that Ramsay really wrote this letter, but that he only alludes to the political principles of Fenelon, which might have been developed more freely in England, than in France, and not those principles against which Voltaire had declared an implacable warfare, and from which he wanted to detach Fenelon, in order to deprive them of the support of so fine a genius, and so virtuous a heart. I will not
dissemble that, in reading the life of Fenelon I had conceived the same idea: I do not say this because I am very sensible to the honour of having thought a moment like Mr. Esmenard, for I shall shortly prove that both of us were wrong. But let us first hear Mr. Esmenard. “This explanation," says he, “ appeared to me very simple, and I confess it is dear to me, for I do not wish to consider the author of the Henriade as guilty of forgery, any more than the Archbishop of Cambray a hypocrite, those to whom either of these opinions is equally dear, are at liberty to keep theirs. I do not envy them the melancholy pleasure of staining what is most sacred among men, the immortality of genius, and of virtue.” This is high-spirited. I adınire very sincerely the zeal of Mr. Esmenard for virtue, but I observe that he but badly defends genius. In fact, if Mr. Ramsay alluded only to the political principles of Fenelon, Voltaire should have known it as well as Mr. Esmenard; what in him is only conjecture from a single phrase, at the distance of half a century, was certainty to Voltaire, who had the entire letter in his hands, and could not mistake its meaning. Why then does he give it one totally different? Does Mr. Esmenard believe that a man is guilty of forgery, when he counterfeits a letter, and not so when he only gives knowingly a false and culpable interpretation of it? This would be a very loose doctrine on so serious a subject. Yet it must be admitted, if his explanation was a justification for genius; but it appears that Mr. Esmenard is not only deceived in his apologetical explanation, but even in his conjecture. In fact, the English phrase cited by Voltaire, was never written by an Englishman, if we can believe an Englishman, Sir Herbert Croft, who speaks French too well to leave a doubt of his being well informed in all the rules, the syntax, and the refinements of his native language, and who therefore should be considered as an excellent judge of this subject. In a letter which he has done me the honour to write to me, from Amiens, he assures me that the English phrase cited by Voltaire is evidently a translation from a French phrase, by a Frenchman imperfectly acquainted with English. The sentence quoted by Voltaire is thus : "Were he born in a free country, he voll'd have display'd his whole genius, and give a full carrier to his own principles never known," (Age of Lewis XIV. ch. 38.) Now Mr. Herbert Croft asserts, that any well educated Englishman, such as Mr. Ramsay, would have written it thus: Had he been born in a free country, he would have displayed his whole genius, and given a full career to his own principles which were never known. “ If painters," says Sir Herbert Croft,“ decide with certainty on the manner of different masters, and between an original, and a copy, we have means still more certain to guide us in judging a literary translation.” He then coutends that any Englishman would have begun the phrase, not by the words were he born, but
by these, had he been born; a turn of phrase necessarily required by the words which follow would have displayed; he thinks moreover, that an Englishman would have been contented with the word principles, without saying his own principles, and that he certainly would not have written never known, without adding completely, or prefixing the words, which were. He proves, in short, that this bad English sentence cannot be ascribed, either to a Scotch, or Irish idiom, or the ignorance of the transcriber, so that it is an evident fabrication.
One of the greatest excesses of Voltaire, and that which is least worthy of a frank, generous man, is the profusion of eulogiums dictated by flattery, interest, or vanity, on persons either obscure or contemptible, and the prodigality with which he lavishes abuse on those who have the misfortune to displease him, who have not flattered his self-love, or shared his sentiments, his affections, or his enmities. To whom would one think he gives, in the supplement and elsewhere, the name of Pollio, a Roman Consul, the friend of Augustus, Virgil, and Horace, the author of beautiful histories and tragedies, and the conqueror of Dalmatia: to a farmer-general Lapopliniere, who never made any conquests, who never was known except for his immense wealth, and for being made ridiculous by his wife. Would we believe that to such a person he wrote, “I pity you much, Sir, for you have great talents, taste, facility, and a rich imagination. You will probably be the ornament of the age which I am about to quit.”.
But in return, there is no sort of abuse which he has not added in this supplement to what he had already vomited forth in prose and verse against Rousseau. “I could not guess,” says he, “why he (Rousseau) advised Emilius to marry the daughter of the hangman, but I now see very well it was to keep a friend in time of need.” Abusive letters against Rousseau had been carried off from the department of Foreign Affairs and put into the hands of Voltaire. He was impatient to print them, but afraid of being disgraced by the Duke of Choiseul and the Duke of Prassin, who were justly provoked at this violation of their ministry, he procures a solicitation to them for permission to print the letters, and charges the divine angels, with this diabolical negociation. This is the only reproach made against Voltaire by his new panegyrist in the Mercury; he felt the injuries to Rousseau, but applauds the others; the rest of mankind, the mob, the stupid race, were born for it, and should think themselves very much honoured by it.
Nothing was more implacable than the hatred of Voltaire. He hated furiously; he hated forever. The King of Prussia nobly reproaches him for it more than once in his correspondence. He begs VOL. 1. ”
him to “let a man (Maupertius) die in peace, whom he had cruelly persecuted.” He is obliged often to repeat the same form : “ leave in peace,” says he, “the manes of Louis XV;" for death itself could not, it appears, disarm Voltaire; "he has exiled you from his kingdom ; he has made war against me unjustly. It is allowed to show sensibility for wrongs that we feel, but we must also learn to pardon. The dark and atrabilious passion of revenge is not proper for men whose existence is but a moment.” The King of Prussia speaks very well, but he preaches in vain ; Voltaire is still devoured by this “ dark and atrabilious passion of revenge.” To the thousand proofs of it contained in his other works, this supplement adds others. The President de Brosses was among the candidates for a seat in the French Academy, and certainly was entitled to it. But an old dispute existed between him and Voltaire; who now wrote to Duclos, Secretary of the Academy, to Marshal Richelieu, and another person, beseeching every one to prevent the election of Brosses, whom he painted in the most odious colours, saying that he would die with mortification, he would suffer sudden death, on hearing of his success. And who did he oppose to President de Brosses? Who did he wish in his place? If I were to name him, it would be seen that neither justice nor the cause of letters were of any weight in the scale against his revenge. It is true that the dispute between them was an interested one, and he was very sensible to differences of that sort, although it has lately been attempted to make him pass for a very generous man, and he has been admired for having, with an income of one hundred thousand crowns, made a present of twenty-five louis to one of his most devoted servants and admirers. Madame Denis did not think thus of his generosity; and among the monuments which this supplement raises to his glory, may be distinguished the letter from his niece, in which she says, “ Avarice stabs you," or in - a more polite variation, “ The love of money torments you. Do not force me to hate you. You are the last of men with regard to the heart. I will conceal as much as I can the vices of your heart. We see that Madame Denis is out of temper; but ill temper, though it exaggerates, does not invent defects; above all, it does not invent one opposed to the character of the person we wish to mortify, and surely Madame Denis would not have written thus to a person known for his vigilant generosity and the noble use of his wealth. Admire however the fanaticism of the blind and enthusiastical partisans of Voltaire. This correspondence, filled with such marks of bad faith, calumny, implacable vengeance, and vulgarity, is given as a proof, not only of his genius, but the nobleness, the generosity of his character. “His enemies,” say they, (and thus they call the enemies of his principles, his vices, his fury) “his enemies are right; it should be all burnt in order to give credit to the calumnies and false opinions against the author.” As if these letters themselves do not bear testimony against the character of their author. They attest also his genius. This we do not deny ; but it should be acknowledged that the best letters of Voltaire have been published, and that, as is almost always the case, the supplement is not worth the rest of the work. We may say further, that although this writer is certainly one of the best jesters that ever lived, his pleasantries are sometimes very bad, and without going out of this supplement, and quoting only what can be done decently, is there much wit in this compliment addressed to the King of Prussia, which is intended to be very gay: “May I be as knavish as a Jesuit, as beggarly as a Chymist, as stupid as a Capuchin, if I have anything in view but your glory.” Is there much delicacy in this sarcasm : “A man by the name of Nonote, an ex-Jesuit, has done me the honour of printing two volumes against me to get bread. I do not believe it will be superfine.” It is known that one of Voltaire's pretensions was to end his letters, not by the common usual compliments, which long use has not rendered better, but by delicate happy strokes; he most commonly succeeds; but not when he concludes a letter to Chabanon in this way: “ when you are in the Academy you will be disgusted with it, but never be disgusted with the friendship which you have excited in me.” This is in a very bad taste.
But we must say a word of the work of the editor. Voltaire was. accustomed to sprinkle his letters with quotations from Horace, Virgil, and the Latin poets most known. Sometimes he parodies the passages. The editor has taken the trouble of translating them at the foot of the pages. But in this he is very capricious. Sometimes he translates, sometimes he does not. He lets us know, in a note, the meaning of “sub gladio oportet cognoscere malos,” &c. but he is determined we shall not know what “ærugo mera, quid novi, de gente jesuitica, tuus sum, interim vale," and a crowd of other citations, which are neither easier nor more difficult than those he explains. Sometimes he takes the pains of translating in a note what Voltaire translates in the text, as, for instance, that line of Horace which Voltaire addressed in French and Latin to the Duke of Choiseul,
Principibus placuisse viris non intima laus est.
It appears that the editor is not satisfied with Voltaire's translations. He will permit me to say that I am not very well contented with his own. He has made a blunder into which a scholar of the sixth form would not have fallen, because he would have translated